Tom Hardy leads his first superhero movie as Spider-Man nemesis Venom.
Tom Hardy first dabbled in the superhero genre by playing villain Bane in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, but he's now got himself a starring role in Venom, with Sony again attempting to launch its own MCU-rivaling shared universe after trying to sow the seeds for a Sinister 6 spin-off the poorly received The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Hardy portrays journalist Eddie Brock, who loses his job and his fiancee Anne (Michelle Williams) after questioning science entrepreneur Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) about the alleged illegal practices taking place at his company, The Life Foundation.
When Life scientist Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) reaches out to Brock and offers to help him uncover Drake's lethal pharmaceutical trials, they infiltrate the lab and Brock is infected with a symbiote - an alien lifeform obtained by Drake's team on a space mission.
Symbiotes need humans to survive on Earth and Brock seems to be the perfect host, but with many previous test subjects having died, Drake wants to retrieve his precious experiment. Eddie/Venom are having none of that and go on the run to escape capture.
There are some enjoyable moments, most of which come from Eddie's partnership with Venom. The scenes where Eddie learns of his new "parasite" and communicates with the Venom voice in his head are very entertaining and a lot of fun.
It is almost like a buddy comedy, with the duo eventually learning to work together in the same body.
But this comedy is surrounded by much darker, serious material, making the film incredibly uneven tonally.
One minute we have slapstick, laughter-inducing bits and the next we're presented with scary scenes that would give children nightmares. It's like director Ruben Fleischer wasn't sure what sort of film he wanted.
It also seemed like he had a fight on his hands over the age rating - the film is a 15, but it could have probably been a 12A with the removal of a few harder swear words. It should have fully leaned into its 15 rating and shown some violence.
Considering Venom is a villain who likes to bite people's heads, it makes sense to show some blood and guts, rather than cut away and edit out the gore.
Hardy is the strongest component in the film, really throwing his all into it, given that he spends a lot of the time arguing with the voice in his head and seeming like he's lost physical control over his body.
Hardy takes the comedy approach and is entertaining to watch, but that doesn't always work with the rest of the plot.
Ahmed has the serious, shady villain role but doesn't get much to do with it. It was refreshing that he didn't ham it up and go over the top, but he was not convincing as the bad guy.
All the other supporting characters are as thinly drawn, such as Williams' Anne, who is just the concerned love interest, and Slate, who isn't in it as much as expected.
Besides the fun Eddie/Venom conversations, the script isn't particularly exciting, the plot is tired and unoriginal, and the CGI is surprisingly poor in places, meaning Venom comes nowhere near to the high quality of the MCU films and is more like superhero films from the early 2000s.
This isn't the strongest start to Sony's planned cinematic universe.
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